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Newquay aquarium staff hope caimans' love nest will echo to the patter of tiny claws

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: January 11, 2014

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A LAGOON 'love shack' has been built for a pair of caimans living at a Newquay aquarium in the hope it will encourage them to breed this year.

The floating shelter, which has been constructed using bamboo poles and foliage by staff at Newquay's Blue Reef Aquarium, is designed to provide the couple with a covered underwater area which mimics conditions in the wild.

As well as providing additional environmental enrichment for the metre-long reptiles, keepers at the wildlife attraction on Towan Promenade hope it will also encourage the pair, called Gnasher and Nibbles, to start breeding.

Blue Reef's Steve Matchett said: "Caimans use burrows in the wild in which to shelter.

"They've both been investigating their new shelter and have become a lot more active since we put it up. Hopefully it won't be too long before they start laying eggs."

The Cuvier's dwarf caiman is the smallest surviving member of the crocodilian family found in the Americas.

Fully grown adult males reach up to 1.6 metres in length. Caimans are found throughout South America and live in freshwater habitats such as rivers, including the Amazon, flooded forests and larger lakes.

The caimans are covered with extremely tough, bony plates. This may compensate for their relatively small size and protect them from larger predators.

In the wild the caiman builds its nest out of rotting vegetation. The heat generated by the decomposing plant matter helps to keep the eggs warm.

Incubation usually takes up to three months and, when they do hatch, the babies may not enter the water for several days.

In the wild it is thought the female will dig up the nest in response to the newborn hatchlings' calls and direct them towards water.

Due to its relatively small size and the toughness of its skin the Cuvier's dwarf caiman is not hunted commercially and their numbers in the wild are believed to be stable.

However, the main threat to their survival comes from habitat destruction and pollution caused by gold-mining and other industrial activities.

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